The end of February may not be the most intuitive time to think about your New Years resolutions but bear with me for a second.
By the end of the second month of the year, I have found that I had enough time to take stock of the progress I have made toward my goals, identify any roadblocks, and re-evaluate my action plan. If I need to re-examine my goals or my timeline, there’s still plenty of time left in the year to implement changes and still finish on-track. It’s also helpful to check in with yourself around this time to make sure you still feel the same way about your goals and priorities as you did at the start of the year.
If you’ve completely forgotten about your plan for 2023 (or never made one to begin with), do not give up hope. Having ‘goals’ may sound lofty and unachievable but we can make progress across different areas of our lives by starting off with something as small as a habit. No matter how big, or small, your goals are, the key to success is making them specific, measurable and achievable. You should think of your goals as building blocks that can be added on to progressively.
Personally, while I used to think that I would be inspired by declaring a big, bold goal—such as making the career switch to law—I quickly found that overwhelming. Instead, I fell back on tried and true techniques including action plans with lists and timelines. “Become a lawyer” turned into “apply to law schools” which became “reach out to alumni”; “study for the LSAT”; “create a financial plan”; “pick a law school”; “build up my resume”; etc. Even these smaller goals can often be broken down into smaller tasks. Every time one of those tasks were completed I could see that I was making progress toward my goal even though the end game still felt far, far away.
If you’re reading this feeling like you haven’t achieved anything yet this year think, about how you can implement any of these strategies to get back on track.
Goals, especially when linked to habits, are easier to maintain if you both track them and measure them. Even a cross mark on your daily calendar to show you have adhered to your plan can be motivating. Measuring your success along the way can show your progress, even when you are having a bad day. Besides, tracking our time and progress should be second nature for lawyers.
Celebrate Small Successes
If you only focus on reaching your goals by December 2023, you will be setting yourself up to feel discouraged. Recognize your small accomplishments, like blocking off 10 minutes in a day for a mindfulness exercise, and the long-term work you put in will feel worth it.
If you have an outcome or results goal, you’ll need to work daily on the behaviour you need to change to make that goal a reality. This means carefully examining your behaviours and pinpointing the ones you need to change. If your end goal is to save money for a vacation, for example, you may want to assess how often you’re spending money eating out.
Another thing I would encourage you to assess throughout the year is the actual goal. Have your priorities changed? What were your reasons behind the goal in the first place and have any of those reasons changed? Is the goal still realistic given any life changes? Reassessing is not quitting; don’t punish yourself if your original goals need to adjusted or if new opportunities present themselves.
Finally, don’t limit your goals to your career—we are so much more than lawyers! Think about other areas of your life that may be a bit neglected and how you can improve on those (for example: mental health, physical health, financial wellbeing, friendships, family relationships, hobbies) this year. After all, well-rounded people make better and happier lawyers.
Marie Kazmer obtained her Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Toronto and worked for a few years in financial services and investments before returning to school to obtain her J.D. from Western. She is currently completing her articles at a boutique estate litigation firm in downtown Toronto and expects to be called to the Bar in June 2023. During law school Marie was a member of the Western Business Law Clinic assisting local start-ups, Western's In Vino Veritas wine tasting club and participated in several moots and competitions including coaching the Walsh Family Law Moot in her third year. Outside of work Marie enjoys cooking, skiing, travelling and volunteering with Second Harvest.